Reflecting on Welcome Week 2017

Travis Myers - Memorial University


University welcome week is an exciting time for everyone involved and emotions can run high. There is excitement, anxiousness and curiosities of the unknown at the forefront of those embarking on a whole new chapter of their lives. As university faculty, staff, students and volunteers prepare for hundreds of hours the arrival of the new recruits, we all have different objectives we hope to achieve in the days of welcoming new students to our campuses.
 
The blending providing an exciting, inviting atmosphere and sharing our institutional traditions, spirit while making sure our students feel welcome, make connections, know how to navigate our campuses and be academically prepared is a delicate dance. Families of students are a large support structure and we need to make sure they are also comfortable with the choice the student made to study at our schools.  At Memorial this year as we welcomed students to their new homes on campus, it was very much a family affair. Parents, guardians, Moms, Dads, brothers, sisters, grandma and the family dog were part of the moment. The day included a lunch in the courtyard where everyone was invited to spend time together along with faculty, staff and volunteers. These informal moments shared by the student, their parents and the people of the university helped ease the tension for most because of the welcome. We expressed our joy for having the new students arrive and reassured their choices of coming here to study. Those small interactions are what help students make that initial and crucial connection to the institution by letting them know that we are genuinely happy they are now a part of our community.
 
During our residence life staff training this year I put more emphasis than usual on seeking out students who transferred from other schools. Many students who do not make those institutional or social connections in the first few weeks of their arrival do not tend to stay or be successful at their institution. It is always important to try and understand where our students are coming from and what they may have experienced in the past if they decided to transfer. Transfer students may be particularly vulnerable if they are not connected. Sometimes they do not get the attention that is required to ensure their success. This topic inspired a great discussion among our staff as some are transfer students themselves. They shared their view on the importance of feeling a sense of belonging and that there is apprehension around “trying this again” at another institution.
 
It was great to see a blend of faculties, schools and support units at Memorial come together to provide different opportunities to engage students and try to intercept as many of those new faces to ensure that they felt a connection to Memorial. It is one of my most favorite times of the year and love sharing that experience with everyone involved.
 
Specifically to the Housing Division but open to all divisions, I would love to hear what things went well for your orientation/onboarding/welcome weeks. Are there new things that were tried this year and were there lessons learned?  What things have always been done that work so well for your institution in welcoming students and their families? If you would like to let me know you can email me at housing@aacuss.ca or call me at 709-864-3475 and I would welcome a conversation about your experiences.